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Japan nuclear regulator advisers fear loss of its “essential” independence via Reuters

Feb 18 (Reuters) – International advisers to Japan’s atomic regulator have raised concern a mandatory review of its performance could lead to a loss of independence for the body, which was set up in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A lack of independent regulatory oversight of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station north of Tokyo was to blame for the meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami, an official inquiry into the disaster found.

After the disaster, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was created under the environment ministry with more autonomy but legislation provided for a review after three years of operation with a proviso to consider placing it under the Cabinet Office, involving closer political oversight.

While welcoming a review of the NRA, the advisers, who include the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Nuclear Safety Group, Richard Meserve, were concerned about political interference, they said in a document dated Wednesday and posted on the regulator’s website.

“We … are concerned about any transfer of authority that would serve to compromise the regulator’s independence,” the document said.

“Indeed, given the problems associated with the previous regulatory structure, we suspect the maintenance of a clearly independent regulator is likely to be essential to the restoration of public confidence in nuclear power.”

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